by Anmol AhujaOct 23, 2021
There perhaps may not have been a better time in all of modern existence to re-evaluate the fundamentals of a fundamental part of our existence - our homes - than the (supposed) aftermath of a pandemic. As an edifice that is at the core of all of human activity, or the diurnal genesis and conclusion of it, the modern residence is rooted in a number of paradigms that differ and come to define it geographically: culture, socio-economic factors, context, and a dominant, traditional way of building. Yet still, modern residential architecture has also come to adapt some universal principles as a response to the rapidly evolving gamut of our needs. While a chunk of that may be rooted in economy, a lot of it also has to do with a certain habituality: how we see the spaces that harbour us when the day sets.
“Home is where the heart is”, while not entirely dismissed, attains new, colossal proportions that encompass nearly every aspect of our life, including work, earlier a prime differentiator. In the purview of the complete gut-punch of COVID-19, these notions stood to be reassessed, and as I see it, now dangle on dual tightropes. The first is the rather predominant notion of a home as a literal refuge, or a structure offering it. The other is the fading notion of a ‘fixed’ home, boundless in definition amid an increasingly digital, wireless world; transient, and for the digital nomad, anywhere. Fuelled by a number of digital strides, as we nestled in our homes and tried to fit an entire world into a microcosm composed of ‘four walls and a roof’, what we arrived at was a kind of middle ground. UK-based minD Studio’s ongoing research examines that shifting middle ground, and within that, what a home has meant, what it does mean, and what it may come to mean, all the while circling around the rather duplicitous question of what it should mean.
While several such studies have been undertaken in the past, from basal to comprehensive, what seems interesting about the studio’s approach is a scrutiny and study of their own designs. While the studio, headed by Miroslav Naskov, primarily engages with parametric and computational design, driven by the belief of cutting edge technology and innovation optimising future living, their research project, titled The House: A Place to Live and Work, places a number of their residential designs under a microscopic lens. Studying evolving needs and with them, evolving homes, minD Design looks at the residence as a unit of confluential means and morphing activities - living, working, playing - under a single adulent roof. An interesting segue into the study emerges from looking at how this fusion of activities may lead to a reinvention, a morphogenisation of the spaces we inhabit.
Furthermore, delving from their own design language, the study demonstrates the influence of fluidity, transparency, and the mix between hard and soft edges on the form and spatiality of our abodes, through a number of ‘ideal’ proposals, picturesque and picture perfect in appearance, almost as if Thoureau’s Walden was dreamt into parametric existence, in a bout to explore natural intervention in living spaces. In fact, by any approximation, a number of these proposals, realised, would serve to be dream residences for a majority of the populace. Though evading, by design, a semblance of socio-economic impediments, the implorent crunch on land resources, and the worrisome state of social housing in most major metropoli to present far too idyllic a picture, the study seeks to evoke a sense of elevated living, an aspiration to include, if not all, parts of the “perfect house”.
STIR interacts with Miroslav Naskov on his interpretation of a ‘house’, how that has evolved, the most significant learnings from his study and exploration, and what the visualisations may mean in a modern, more grounded context.
Anmol Ahuja (AA): What has been your most significant research finding through the process? Is it in line with the concept or preconceived notion of a traditional home, or does it end up redefining it?
Miroslav Naskov (MN): As part of the evolving nature of human beings, the definition of “home” must evolve as well. It becomes a more hybrid space where people live, play, work, meet, tweet. It places forward an architecture that is agile and challenges the conventional stereotypes and ideas of static typologies and organisation.
AA: Do you think your research project gains additional significance in a post-pandemic age, wherein people are now spending a lot more time indoors and at home?
MN: The research aims to blur the boundary between indoor and outdoor, increase the well-being of inhabitants and boost their productivity and joy. We do believe this study, especially in the post-pandemic age, is a starting point for a collective eagerness to find solutions for better places to live and work, play and rest.
AA: What is the one element of a house that you think remains unchanged, despite the dynamic flux the house as an architectural unit finds itself in?
MN: The element of feeling a certain comfort when at home always stays. However, the sub-elements of what makes you feel comfortable, continuously evolve.
AA: As workplaces and spaces to meet go virtual, do you feel an idea of a 'fixed home' holds prudence in an increasingly digital-dependent age?
MN: The exciting part of this research is its capacity to grow and generate different environments rather than one. It is already less “fixed”: more of an adaptive home.
AA: A lot of the visualisations for the project increasingly showcase natural surroundings, much like a retreat. What significance do you think that holds for a majority of our urban population?
MN: Bringing and inviting nature into the house would increase the well-being of the inhabitants because of its environmental and psychological effects. With the development of public transport nowadays, it is easy to reach city centres from surrounding less populated areas within an hour, so many people would presumably choose the tranquillity of this environment and make a home there. It is also worth searching for ways to bring back nature to the urban environment and redefine and give new meaning and function to some outdated infrastructure elements. A great example of this kind of intervention would be the High Line in New York.